WHEN NORMAN MET RORY…
17 - January 2013
One year ago, Norman McGurran, a retired electrical engineer, was watching television at home in Holywood, Northern Ireland, as Rory McIlroy - one of the coastal County Down town’s most famous sons - was narrowly outgunned for the second consecutive year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Fast-forward 12 months and world number one McIlroy - again among the hot favourites for the US2.7million Desert Swing opener, which ends on Sunday - is back in Abu Dhabi. The 23-year-old’s latest bid for the Falcon trophy, where he will go up against his new Nike stable-mate, Tiger Woods, is not something Norman was prepared to miss.
Flight booked, Norman arrived at the award-winning Abu Dhabi Golf Club to see his ‘local hero’ in action and was made up when McIlroy took time out to thank him for his efforts.
“I’ve been following Rory since he was a kid playing at Holywood Golf Club and he was exceptional even then,” said Norman, who plays off a handicap of 12. “You could tell, even at a young age, that his swing and balance just came naturally to him. It’s great seeing him take on the world’s best players as the best of them all – he deserves it...”
With McIlroy making his fifth Abu Dhabi appearance, Norman’s trip to the eighth Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is his first. “I was in Abu Dhabi last summer and an Emirati family I met invited me back to stay with them. Thankfully the wife’s let me away for the week. It’s a nice time of year to visit, escape the weather at home and obviously seeing Rory was the deciding factor. This is the first time I’ll have seen him play in a professional tournament and it’s only a six-hour flight.”
Norman’s ‘dream come true’ moment when he met Rory ahead of the Championship tee-off came as tens of thousands of fans began clambering to see the McIlroy-Tiger Woods-Martin Kaymer pairing over the tournament’s first two days. And the world’s number one had some special words for one of his biggest fans.
“It’s always amazing to meet support from home,” said Rory. “I’m in the US a lot nowadays and don’t get back to Holywood too often, so it’s just nice to hear a familiar accent. I really appreciate Norman’s support and hopefully I’ve made his trip a memorable one.”